The London transfer of the story of Gloria and Emilio Estefan comes to St Martin’s Lane with lots of cheesy energy, chock-full of hits from Gloria and the Miami Sound Machine.
The rather thin plotline follows the young Gloria as she performs in her community, before growing up to catch the attention of Emilio, at this point playing weddings and the like with little success.
Although she sings “Anything for You” at her audition (complete with a section where all the other observers leave the stage, letting the young couple have their ‘love at first sight’ moment), the Machine is strictly Latino and pitched at that market.
Gloria’s home life consists of a mother who had performed, successfully, in Havana, now resenting her daughter’s ambition; a father sick with MS and mute except in flashbacks and one dream sequence where he gives his child advice; and a younger sister who isn’t sharply enough defined for us to get a sense of her.
With these is Consuelo, the tough grandma who also provides the comic relief as well as key support for Gloria as she builds her career. I liked her scenes, but it’s a trope we have seen so many times before, the helpful granny.
The music is good, and the production values are high in terms of lighting and effects – the set is mainly a series of sliding platforms to keep the action moving.
Act one closes with dancing in the stall aisles and “Conga”, before a pace change in the second half with Gloria’s road accident and rehabilitation. For me this slowed the pace too much for what has been marketed as a show which will get you “On Your Feet” and presumably keep you there!
As the Estefans have had a long and happy marriage, there’s nothing much to exploit there in the way of conflict, and other than their record label declining to support “Dr Beat” or put money into their albums, there’s little sense of the obstacles faces by a Latino group crossing over into a white market (other than a great joke about Sweden feeling like “a land of dancing cotton buds”).
For all the high energy of this piece, it is a jukebox musical with a sliver of story, and if you paid full price for your tickets you may feel a little disappointed. Look around for the many discounts available and you may feel you have more value for money.
Gloria Estefan is played by Christie Prades, who gets the singer’s mannerisms and vocal patterns just right. Emilio is George Ioannides, who did well with an underwritten role (and a slightly troublesome microphone). Madalena Alberto (who was in Aspects of Love earlier in the year) is Gloria’s mother, and Karen Mann is Consuelo.
On Your Feet continues at the London Coliseum. Tickets are available throughout the remainder of the run, but shop around for the best prices.
Photo credits – Johan Persson.